CFF Clujana coach Mirel Albon was delighted as the Romanian champions' five-year wait for progress in this competition was finally ended.
CFF Cljana may be the dominant female team in Romania, but before this season the UEFA Women’s Cup first qualifying round had proved an insurmountable hurdle on four occasions.
Fresh from clinching their fifth straight Romanian title, they travelled to Israel for Group A10 well aware they lost all their matches at this stage last season and had gone seven European games without a win. However, 22 minutes into their opener against past quarter-finalists AC Sparta Praha, Florentina Spanu gave Clujana the lead, and although they conceded a late equaliser, they were in the running having taken a point off the group favourites.
Clujana had in fact opened their 2005/06 campaign with a draw against Sparta, but went on to be held in their next two games and crashed out. This time they took on hosts Maccabi Holon FC and produced a 3-0 win and then overcame Cypriot team AEK Kokkinochovion 11-0 with a Rodico Striblea hat-trick. Although Sparta topped the group on goal difference, aided by a 19-0 defeat of AEK, Clujana's record against the teams finishing first and third in their group was the best of any of the ten first qualifying round runners-up and they took the remaining place on offer in the next stage.
They now face a tough task against two-time winners Umeå IK and Russia's WFC Rossiyanka, who have both beaten Clujana heavily in the past, as well as Universitet Vitebsk of Belarus, one of the sides who held them two seasons ago, but the Romanian team have become the first from their nation to get through a round of this competition and coach Mirel Albon was content. "The entire tournament was of a high quality and helps the development of women’s football," Albon told uefa.com. "I am delighted with the way my players played. This is the fifth time we have played in this competition and we have progressed from having accumulated eight points overall to seven in this mini-tournament alone. We have a good chance of improving in the future and getting into the latter rounds of this competition."